Thank you for your continued support to the Blen team. Because
of your avid encouragement, the 3rd Annual Blen Art Show,
Celebrating the Life of Skunder Boghossian, was an overwhelming
success. The 4th Annual Blen Art Show, like the previous
ones, continues to promote visual art and honor an international
visual and poetic icon, Gebre Kristos Desta. The show will
be open to the public in Washington DC on November 11, 2006
and remain open until December 2, 2006.
Original works of the late painter and poet, Gebre Kristos
Desta, Wosene Kosrof and other prominent artists will be
exhibited at this historical event.
Gebre Kristos Desta, the painter-poet, was born in 1932
in the Eastern province of Harar, Ethiopia, to father Aleka
Desta, a clergyman, and mother W/o Atsede Mariam Wondimagegnehu.
Kristos completed his elementary education in his native
town of Harar, and attended the Haile Sellassie 1st School
and General Wingate High School. He later joined the Science
Department at Haile Sellassie 1st University, presently
Addis Ababa University. Gebre Kristos did not pursue a career
in his field of study, scientific agriculture, but instead
studied art and painted in his spare time. Initially, Gebre
Kristos was a self-taught artist, but in his sophomore year,
his predilection for art won out, and Gebre Kristos abandoned
his studies in hope of becoming a full-time artist.
between his departure from the University and his trip abroad
to study art, Gebre Kristos worked for several agencies,
including the Soil Analysis Chemical Laboratory of the Imperial
Ethiopian Government, the Highway Authority and as an engineer
at the Alidade and Map Charting section in the Geological
Department of the State Bank of Ethiopia. Gebre Kristos,
renowned as an instructor, held his first teaching position
during this time, at the Sebestie Negasie Elementary School,
as an English, Geography, and General Science Teacher. He
was also appointed to illustrate children’s books
as a U.S. Government sponsored program then known as the
Point of Four Education. Soon after this first professional
job as an artist, Gebre Kristos left for Germany to study
art in depth.
1957 to 1961, Gebre Kristos studied at the Werschule fur
Bildende Kunste und Gestaltung, an art school in Cologne,
West Germany. It was here that he was introduced to abstract
art, which would later become his specialty. Gebre Kristos
excelled at his studies, majoring in painting and graphic
art, and graduated at the top of his class. After graduation
from the Cologne Art Academy, he held his first one-man
exhibition at the Gallery Kuppeers, Cologne. The show encompassed
a year of work, and made an extensive six month tour of
1962, Gebre Kristos returned back to his homeland Ethiopia
to introduce his newly adopted style, abstract expressionism.
Confronted with the task of introducing modern art into
a culture still steeped in traditionalism, Gebre Kristos
faced censure and criticism for abandoning more conventional
Ethiopian styles. He held a one-man show at the School of
Fine Arts in 1963, where he was also a member of the faculty,
and his work was received with mixed reactions. Despite
frequent sharp criticism, Gebre Kristos continued to teach
and create art at the School of Fine Art in Addis Ababa.
In 1965, he won the Haile Sellassie 1st prize Trust Award
in Fine Arts, and gained official recognition for his innovative
and unique style. The poetry of Gebre Kristos is as equally
brilliant and original as his visual work. As one of Ethiopia’s
first contemporary poets, his written pieces present a different
approach from that of the customary fare, and break from
tradition by introducing new rhythms.
Kristos served in an ambassadorial capacity, heading cultural
delegates and traveling with touring Ethiopian art exhibitions
in Europe. In 1967, he was invited to exhibit his works
and to visit important museums, artistic, and historic sites
in the USSR. The same year he visited and exhibited his
works in Czechoslovakia by invitation of that government.
The Federal Republic of West Germany invited Gebre Kristos
to present his pieces in 1970, as well as visit and endorse
important places of art interest. Also in 1970, on the occasion
of expanding higher education in Ethiopia, Gebre Kristos
was invited by the National University Alumni Association
to exhibit his works at the Kennedy Memorial Library in
Addis Ababa. The following year, the Ministry of Education
and Fine Arts awarded Gebre Kristos “Best Teacher
of the Year” in recognition with his superb efforts
as an instructor at the University of Addis Ababa. A similar
honor was bestowed upon him by the office of Addis Ababa
schools in 1972. The same year, the U.S. Department of State
invited him to visit as well as exhibit work in the United
States of America. Two years later the Government of India
extended a similar invitation to Gebre Kristos, both for
exhibition of pieces and to visit historical art landmarks
in the country.
the Derg era, Gebre Kristos was forced to be involved in
producing visual propaganda materials, and also served in
the Zamacha campaign as an art expert. Upon his return from
Zamacha, he was awarded a certificate and a gold medal.
Several studies of his experiences and observations were
included as part of a retrospective exhibition that was
held in 1976-77. In 1976, Gebre Kristos was invited by the
Municipality of Addis Ababa to start the first government
sponsored gallery in Ethiopia, known as the City Hall Gallery.
Two years later Gebre Kristos participated in a workshop
and exhibited work at the Pa Ya Pa Gallery in Kenya. Dissatisfied
with the government’s policy and it's negative impact
on art, Gebre Kristos left for West Germany. Denied asylum
by the German government, Gebre Kristos was forced to become
a refugee and immigrated to the United States with the help
of a Catholic church in Lawton, Oklahoma.
his arrival to the U.S. in 1980, Gebre Kristos lived in
a one room apartment where he began to work on small scale
stills. He continued to teach, at a local YMCA and high
school. Gebre Kristos held one man show in the U.S., which
featured works both in retrospective and those that focused
on his new life. Gebre Kristos suddenly took ill and died
in 1981, at the early age of 49.